This Glasgow restaurant is an 'old favourite' after more than 40 years - and Paolo Nutini loves it.

From the elegant residences of Glasgow’s merchants and traders in the 18th century to the cosmopolitan hub of bars and restaurants it is today, it’s hard to imagine a time when the Merchant City was derelict.

Sadly, this became the case in the 1960s when plans to build the new M8/M74 motorway ring meant the compulsory demolition of some buildings, and the movement of the city’s food markets and stalls closer to the East End of the city.

Glasgow Times: Cafe Gandolfi

It was hardly the first choice for opening a new business, but one talented photographer saw an opportunity in the old cheese market’s offices.

Iain MacKenzie had a certain vision in mind when he opened Café Gandolfi in 1979. He wanted to create a city institution that would introduce Glaswegians to café ‘society’, bringing with him sophisticated interior, good food and the city’s first cappuccino machine.

The wooden revolving doors are over a century old and were the same ones taken from the Grand Hotel in Charing Cross before it was demolished in 1968. The stained-glass windows feature the art ‘A flock of fishes’ by John Clark, and the furniture in the dining room was handcrafted by renowned Tim Stead.

Glasgow Times: Grand HotelGrand Hotel (Image: Newsquest)

MacKenzie’s appreciation for the café aesthetic sings through the walls of Café Gandolfi as his own photographs of Glasgow cafes of the 1970s still adorn them.

His love for photography even inspired the café’s name. Louis Gandolfi was a camera making business founded in London in 1885.

Over the years as the Merchant City has grown fit to burst with cafes, bars, restaurants, pubs and more, Café Gandolfi has been a permanent fixture.

Glaswegians and tourists, the young and old, are pulled in and back again and again for its delicious traditional food, warm and intimate atmosphere, stunning interiors, and quaint café feel all combined into one.

In 1995 MacKenzie passed the baton to Seumas MacInnes, who knew the business inside out having arrived on the scene twelve years earlier as a kitchen porter. Over time his twin sons joined him, cementing the business as a true family affair.

Glasgow Times: Seumas with his sons Donald and Alasdair. Photo by Colin Mearns, 2021Seumas with his sons Donald and Alasdair. Photo by Colin Mearns, 2021 (Image: Newsquest)

Under his reign, the Gandolfi name expanded and in 2002, Bar Gandolfi was opened in the former cheese store of the market.

Architect John MacLeod was entrusted to ensure the bar kept some of its original features, like the cheese store tiles, while Stead’s signature furniture was used to match with the café downstairs.

Café Gandolfi’s food, atmosphere and charm have earned it a place in The Times’ 30 best restaurants of 2024, proving the Merchant City gem has ‘still got it’ after more than four decades.

Glasgow Times:

It has been a proven hit with both locals popping in for a meal, and famous faces.

When discussing his favourite spots in Glasgow to enjoy food and drink, Paisley singer Paolo Nutini said: "If you want something really nice to eat, go to Cafe Gandolfi. They do a take on Scottish food but with a twist."

Glasgow Times:

Speaking at the time of their landmark 40th anniversary in 2019, Seumas said: “Sometimes folk go off at a tangent and when they find their new favourite place, they forget their old favourite.

“Last year for us was all about reminding people we are here; we are still working hard and we are making the types of food you would like to eat.

“The cafe itself is as it was. No changes. You can still order your Cullen skink or Stornoway black pudding.”